Parental Engagement in a School District in Crisis: Examining School Reform through the Lens of Family Involvement

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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Graduate School of Education Dissertations
Parental engagement
School reform
Urban education
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This qualitative study examines a five-year period of reform in a small, urban district during a time of crisis, using the issue of parental engagement as a lens through which to focus the analysis. While leadership in the Clarksville School District changed dramatically from 2007-2012, most parents remained in the community. As one of the few constants in the district, parents have been both blamed for all the district's problems and cited as the key to possible solutions. Therefore, this dissertation focuses on family involvement at the individual, market, and policy levels. Using interviews, observations, and document analysis, I investigate both the opportunities for and barriers to parental engagement that exist in the district at each of these three levels. Drawing on Bourdieu's theories of power, this dissertation also considers why certain forms of participation are privileged over others, how an environment of school choice impacts parental engagement, and what potential parents have to contribute to policy-level change given different leadership structures in the district. Ultimately, my findings show that--contrary to popular opinion--many Clarksville parents put forth a great deal of effort to be involved in their children's education, despite the multiple barriers that they encounter.

Sigal Ben-Porath
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